That’s a quick synopsis of what I learned over the past four years. But before we go there, let’s go back in time.

Why four years you ask? What’s the significance? Four years ago my dad died. Since that time I’ve had to forget everything I thought I knew. By everything I mean EVERYTHING. Life, my passions, exercise, purpose, eating well, happiness, work – all wrong.

I’m just now figuring out how to live. I’m finally starting to make sense of what I want, who I want to be and how to go about achieving those things. Surely, I’ve wanted to quit. But, I didn’t.

Did you quit? Maybe you settled. You stopped trying. You sold yourself short. It’s okay. You can bounce back. I did. So start now. Don’t stop. Keep evolving. Because if you do, everything will come together.

That’s the other half of what I learned since 2009. We can have it all. It’s possible. But, only if we’re willing to work at it. I spent four, say it with me, FOUR years working on every aspect of my life before I saw any type of return. It felt like an eternity. But I realized that I am just getting started. The work never ends. I have to devote the rest of my days to working on that very same project – myself.

Here are four things I learned while trying and failing, living and learning in the past four years. 

1.  There are no rules – Get ready. This is a big one. You can have whatever you want. You can do whatever you want. You can go about achieving it any way that you would like. Go to college or go travel the world. Get a full-time job or freelance. Buy lots of expensive crap or go off of the grid. It doesn’t matter. There is no right way. There’s only the way that you choose. If you really want to do it your way you can. You have to figure it out as you go. If you want it bad enough you will.

2.  Exercise is essential, but not in excess – I used to exercise six days a week for at least 90 minutes every day. No matter what. I never missed a workout. There was a time when I was doing triathlons and ultramarathons. I would train up to six hours in one day. It was absolutely ridiculous.

Now, I exercise three or four days a week. Workouts last about 45 minutes. I do most of them in my apartment or outside. I use a kettlebell and a TRX. I’m still in good shape. I’m still strong and healthy.

These days I have a life outside of the gym. I focus my energy and attention on improving myself in other areas like personal relationships, running a couple businesses, writing, reading and figuring out what I want to do next. Or, what I can do better.

3.  We think about food all wrong – First and foremost, food is fuel. Try eating for energy, not enjoyment. Your best bet is to mix business and pleasure. Find the mullet of dietary intake. Tell everyone; I’m here for the party, but I want to be healthy. The answer – eat foods that are delicious and nutritious.

And another thing, we eat way too much food. At least I did. I was doing the whole eat every two hours thing. Two grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight. Low or no carbs. It was insane. Eating and exercising were taking up all of my time. Now, I fast most days. I don’t eat for 12 or 18 hours. I start my day with bulletproof coffee. That’s grassfed butter and MCT oil. When I do eat, it’s healthy fats, protein, and some well-timed carbs. It’s easy. It works. Well it works for me. Figure out what works for you.

Some final thoughts on food. I  love pizza and beer. I’ve been know to eat an entire loaf of banana bread in one sitting. Smear some Nutella on there. Layer on the almond butter. Down the hatch. I can binge eat with the best of them. And sometimes I do. Just not every day. I can get away with it because I eat real food and exercise the majority of the time. Focus on that first. Then treat yourself to some totally unhealthy food later.

4.  There’s only one race that matters – you can run a marathon every day. You can do a Spartan Race and an IRONMAN. Sign up for the CrossFit Open. I wish you the best. I hope you kill it. I want you to win, or set a new PR and accomplish whatever you set out to do. But know this, no matter how many medals you win, they’ll never make you truly happy.

There’s only one race that really matters, it’s called life. How’s your training coming? Are you winning? Are you even trying?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not about winning things. No, I’m not referring to money or material things. Not power or status, your salary or your job title. You don’t have to compete with other people either. You only have to better your best. Don’t rush through life in search of the finish line. Oh, there’s a finish line alright. But it will find us, we don’t have to go looking for it.

All I’m trying to say is that you can spend all of your time training to lift heavy weights. You can run faster and further. Or, you could devote some time and energy to figuring out who you are beyond the physical stuff. Yeah, eating and exercise are important. But, figuring out who you want to be and why and how you’ll go about doing it matters more.

The list goes on…

Fun fact, this articles was originally 13 things I learned in 2013. Sounds pretty cool, right? Before that I had made a list of about 20 lessons. I trimmed that down to 13. Then I started writing. I got to number four, the list you see here. It was over 1,200 words. I had to wrap it up.

Don’t worry, I have plenty of material saved up. I have a lot to say. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Either way, writing this helped realized what I was trying to say in the first place. The process of living and learning, trying and failing, never ends. Life, that race I talked about, is all about evolution. Everything I thought I knew was wrong. It was right for me at one point in time, but it wrong for who I want to be tomorrow. The only reason I know that is because I thought about who I want to be tomorrow, and every day after that. That’s the kind of training I am talking about when I talk about training to win at life.

It’s all about personal evolution. We have to start working on ourselves, every part. Then we can’t ever stop.